Do you recognize these 9 signs of stress in cats?

Agression is one of symptoms of stress in cats
Photo by Hannibal Poenaru CC

How do you know your cat is in stress? It’s not uncommon, when owners believe their cat is having a peaceful life, sleeping for most of the day, so there’s no stress. However, symptoms of stress are not always that obvious, and, even small stress creates significant problems.

This article will teach you how to recognize most common signs of stress in cats.

ANY behavior changes may signal to stress in your cat

Being in stress is, most commonly, observed as changes in behavior. This term, of course, is way too general, so we are going to dive deeper, what sorts of behavior changes should you look after.

IMPORTANT: ANY sign described below may be caused by health problems, as well. It’s not uncommon when stress, medical and behavioral problems are working in combinations. So, it’s always a good idea to visit a vet, when signs of stress are present.

  1. Spraying is the most common sign of stress in cats. While urine spraying is normal for cats, though unwelcome by humans, in purposes of territory marking and leaving sexual “announcements”, in household conditions, this is usually stress related. And, yes. It is done by not only intact males. All cats may exhibit this behavior, including spayed females. And, if a spayed cat does it, it’s almost certainly a sign of stress. Find how to stop your cat from spraying urine here.
  2. Inappropriate elimination is also a one of the most common indications of stress in cats, and it may work both ways. That is, a litter box issues may be caused by stress, and they themselves may be the source of the stress, while avoidance of the box is caused by something else.
  3. Excessive grooming or decreased grooming. Cats use grooming for several reasons: keeping clean, bonding with other animals and for reducing anxiety. If your cat is in stress quite often, he might groom himself in rates higher than normal. What is normal? If he develops extreme hair loss or due to over grooming, then it is obviously not normal. However, it is also not that uncommon that the stress forces a cat to groom himself less, or even stop doing it at all. However, it is very likely to be caused by pain, as well
  4. Aggression has many different forms, and many of them include stress as, both the trigger and the outcome of it. It applies no matter how the aggression is expressed, as there are many forms of it and may be directed to humans, other cats, dogs or even objects. Other reasons for excessive vocalizations is when cat demands something, like food, or being let outdoors.If the cat is then not getting what it wants, his stress levels will rise. However, in this situation it’d be wiser to let it do so, and will cease later, instead of recurring again, and again, if the cat gets what it wants after a bit of begging.
  5. Excessive vocalization may be due to two main reasons. One is stress, in most cases, if something has changed dramatically, like house switch, transition from outdoors to indoors, death of a relative etc. In all those situations, stress is involved in unusually high levels and is almost constantly present.
  6. Restlessness, probably, does not require additional explanation. You know how it is for us, humans. When we can’t fall asleep, walk from room to room, can’t figure out what to do next, are always nervous and get scared of every sudden noise, it a stress. And it’s similar for cats.
  7. Inactivity, despite the belief, that a cat who is “resting” all day lives a peaceful life, may point to stress. It also includes cat not being interested in toys, food or an owner calling him. Remember, besides stress, this kind of behavior includes a high probability of medical problems.

    Sleeping cat may be in stress as well
    Photo by Magnus Bråth
  8. Avoidance of humans, other cats or pets, or locations is almost sure sign of stress. Cat may be avoiding all persons, several of them, or a specific person, which, does not certainly mean that the stress is related to this person. Cat may also avoid a single room, as there might something that creates a stress in it, or a cat may look like being in anxiety and trying to hide himself most the time. Seek for medical advice if the later is the case.
  9. Changes in appetite, both increment and decrement, may be the sign of the stress. It may also be the sign of something else, but, in most cases, that “something else”, which might be health related, is likely to cause stress, as well.

Remember, it’s not possible to grant stress free life for our cats. Similar, like it’s for humans.

However, it’s all up to us to make life of our little friends easier and less stressful, by, first, creating a rich and stimulating environment for him, second, spending plenty of time with him. If your cat shows any sings described above, you should act upon it. Best starting point would be finding what is stressing your cat, or contacting your veterinarian for possible underlying health problems.